The following is a column written by Victor Rodriguez, the public affairs specialist at the Social Security Administration.
June is Pride Month. It’s a time to acknowledge the struggles of the LGBTTQ+ community and celebrate diversity, love and respect. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states and territories.
We recognize same-sex couples’ marriages in all states. In addition, some states also recognize certain non-marital legal relationships (such as some civil unions and domestic partnerships). This recognition is important to determine entitlement to benefits.
Here are various things you should know about our benefits for same-sex couples:
* Marital status is important — For Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the union must be formalized with a marriage certificate to qualify for possible benefits. A member of a same-sex couple may be entitled to Social Security benefits when a working spouse retires, becomes disabled or dies.
- Special provision for certain surviving spouses: Following court rulings in two class lawsuits, – the Ely Class Action and the Thornton Class Action — Social Security added special consideration for some widow(er)s. If you meet all other requirements, Social Security may also pay benefits to a widowed person who shows that they were both very interested and willing to marry legally, but the only reason they did not follow through on their plans or meet the minimum required time of marriage was because their state or territory of residence prohibited officializing the union of same-sex couples. If your partner passed away several years ago, find out about this special provision and our benefits for surviving spouses.
What type of benefits you can receive — Social Security taxes pay for three kinds of benefits: retirement, disability and survivors. If you’re entitled to benefits, your spouse and eligible family members might receive benefits, too.
Children may receive benefits — Your children or stepchildren could also be entitled to benefits.
When you apply for benefits is important — Contact us to know the different requirements to qualify to our retirement, disability, dependent, and survivor’s benefits.
Report life changes right away — If you receive Social Security benefits, you should let us know immediately if you move, marry, separate, divorce or become the parent of a child. Don’t wait until we review your benefits to tell us about any changes. You should report changes right away, so benefits are paid correctly.
For more information, please visit our website for same-sex couples at www.ssa.gov/people/same-sexcouples. You can also read our publication “What Same-Sex Couples Need to Know” at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10014.pdf.